Like a glass-smash in slow motion reverse, Sunlit Plumes Of Dust rebuilds itself. Fragments of guitar improvisation congeal into distinct melody, forming vivid shapes that cut into the background blur. They are only temporary. The album cherishes brittle lucidity in the knowledge that it will soon disappear again, unravelling into tentative improvisations that drift loose from the continuum of consciousness. Partially inspired by Adam Varney’s experience of caring for his grandfather during his final few weeks of life with dementia, the album enacts a pendulum swing between the tentative gestures of cognitive lapse and the radiant return of memory and identity, embellishing the borders of each soundscape with faint recollections – in the form of muffled voices, blurred ambience and field recordings – waiting to be reclaimed by the mind again.
During these moments of clarity, Varney’s guitar work wanders into the realms of folk: twangs of pastoral major key and cycles of idle finger-plucked harmony, all shimmering in the warm sunlight that bathes the empty chair on the album cover. The 12-minute “Blazing Golden Sun” is a sudden rush of awareness and remembering, lifting the veil of absent-mindedness to reveal the sensations that otherwise dwell out of reach: the tick of a clock in a corner of the room, the chatter of idle voices from a beloved childhood memory, a poem (James E. Smith’s Grovely) that sends lucid sensory experiences gushing out like fresh water from a tap. These moments alternate with descents into inner darkness (“Still”, “Glassy Eyed”); a softening of physical objects into abstract smears that shed their affiliation with the familiar, as dementia reaches forth to draw the curtains again. After this ceaseless undulation between here and gone, it’s a relief to finally be liberated into the album’s final track. The solo guitar of “Cobwebs, Scratches, Plumes Of Dust” is like a music box, self-contained and sweet, paying homage to a mind finally liberated from the sway.